‘Tis A Season that Includes Poisonings, Center Warns

The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center is a public health service located at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy in Tucson.

The holiday song proclaims, “you better watch out” as the day of Santa’s arrival approaches but there are more reasons than Santa to be watchful during the winter holidays, say the experts at the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center.

“This busy season is prime for accidental poisonings,” says Keith Boesen, director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center that serves 14 of Arizona’s 15 counties. “We hope everyone has our phone number – 1-800-222-1222 – programmed into their phones, just in case they need us.”

There is much celebrants can do to prevent accidents, however. Here are Boesen’s tips to fend off holiday woe:

House Guests
Having relatives and other guests visit, or making such visits yourself, is an important part of celebrating the holidays. But the visiting can set the stage for accidents that may have serious consequences. Whether you are guest or host, remember:

• Be vigilant about the location of all medications in the house. Never leave prescription or over-the-counter drugs in purses, pockets, suitcases or furnishings that can be reached by children. The best advice: place all medicines from guests and residents in a locked space during the visit and clearly label each person’s medications, so no mix-ups occur.

• Be equally vigilant about the location of all alcoholic beverages – in and out of the bottle.
Even a small amount of alcohol can be dangerous to a young child. Don’t leave partially filled glasses sitting on tables and counters. Make sure the container bottles of alcoholic beverages are secured safely away from all those too young to imbibe.

Poisonous Plants
Poinsettias do not contain fatal poisons, but if small children or pets chew these holiday decorations, they may experience stomach discomfort or even vomiting. More dangerous to tots and animals are mistletoe berries, holly berries and the fruit of the Jerusalem cherry — make sure these plants are not where the young and the curious can reach them.

Many toys, decorations and other devices use batteries to make them “go.” Be very cautious that youngsters are not playing with or removing the batteries. The small button batteries are particularly easy to swallow – U.S. poison centers report about 3,500 such incidents a year. Batteries in the digestive system can make a person seriously ill and may require surgery to remove. Parents are also warned to keep small magnets out of reach, as these result in similar incidents.

Carbon Monoxide
Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide monitor in your house before using fireplaces, kerosene or propane heaters. An annual check of your furnace is also a good idea. As the wintry weather takes hold, unnecessary, and potentially deadly, carbon monoxide poisonings increase.

“Anyone with a question about these or any other poison- or medication-related issue can call 800-222-1222 anytime,” Boesen says. “We’re open 24 hours every day and the service is free and confidential.”

About the center:  The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center is a public health service located at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy in Tucson.